The former Tri-Pen Lions hockey team general manager says a “lack of commitment from the players and parents” was the reason the team folded in late October after playing just four games in the provincial major midget .league.
“It’s frustrating,” said John Budden, who noted, “Initially, we had 20 players on the roster and 10 affiliate players.
“But in the end, we probably had about a dozen guys who were truly committed to play.”
The other problem was that Budden was having trouble getting the $3,000 registration fee from all of the players. Just before the team was forced to fold, there were still five players who had not paid the fee, he said.
Budden said in recent years most, if not all, of the registration was paid by sponsors or raised through fund-raisers.
“It shouldn’t have been a problem,” said Budden. “Other teams in the league, such as the teams from St. John’s, have to pay $2,000 or $4,000 more in registration fees.”
Budden said a decision was made to fold “before we were $20,000 or $30,000 in the hole.”
It was somewhat of a surprise that the Lions, who finished last in the five-team circuit last season and failed to ice a squad for the league’s final tournament in Clarenville, even bothered to enter a team at all this season.
Tri-Pen encompasses a large geographical area, stretching from the outskirts of St. John’s to Conception Bay North, the Placentia area, Burin Peninsula, Clarenville Whitbourne and Bonavista.
Budden said he believed his team was competitive this season despite the lack of ice time available for practice prior to the start of the season.
“This year, we tried to separate our home games and play in four different stadiums so the players could play within their association, but it still didn’t work,” he explained.
“We had a practice in Whitbourne before we made the final decision to quit and we had only seven players on the ice.”
The teams remaining in the provincial league are the Western Kings, St. John’s Privateers, St. John’s Maple Leafs and Central IcePak.
The players from the Tri-Pen region were recently given permission to play for Central if they desired. Budden said he doesn’t know how many Tri-Pen players decided to take advantage of that opportunity.
He said if Tri-Pen doesn’t have a team next year maybe the boundaries will be adjusted and players in the area will get a chance to play somewhere else.
But Budden said it will be difficult for Tri-Pen to get another franchise because he believes the league will bring in a requirement of a $5,000 retainer fee for existing and new teams just to cut out what happened this year.
Teams looking to enter the league under the new franchise system have to set up a not-for-profit organization and submit a business plan.
Even if Tri-Pen gets another franchise off the ground, Budden said he won’t be a part of it.
“I’d love to see the team back, but it will have to be with a new franchise and I’m not interested,” he said.
“We’ve had the franchise for three years. Before the league had two teams in the metro St. John’s area, several players on the Tri-Pen team were from the capital city.
“When they put two teams in St. John’s, Tri-Pen couldn’t access any of those players.
“We still have good calibre local hockey players, but the commitment doesn’t seem to be there.”